Snowden and the Ethics of Whistleblowing

Snowden and the Ethics of Whistleblowing


Phase 1: (5%)

In week 4, students will submit to the Assignment Folder a brief one page paper that identifies the unique ethical issue(Snowden and the Ethics of Whistleblowing), the ethical dilemma and the traditional theories that will be used to suggest potential resolution of the dilemmas.


Phase 2:  (30%)

Required Elements of Final Project:

  • Using the information from Phase 1, students will thoroughly research the topic and define the ethical concerns in detail.
  • Using two of the traditional theories from week 2, suggest potential resolutions to the dilemma(s)

TELEOLOGICAL – This describes an ethical theory which judges the rightness of an action in terms of an external goal or purpose. So, according to a teleological theory, consequences always play some part, be it small or large, in the determination of what one should or should not do. Not all teleological theories are consequentialist. John Rawls’ theory of justice is teleological, but not consequentialist because it claims that consequences are only part of what must be considered when determining what policy is morally just.

CONSEQUENTIALIST – Under a consequentialist theory, the consequences of an action determine its moral value. A key question in consequentialist theory is how to measure the moral worth of the consequences. Consequences can be good, neutral, or evil. Another relevant question is which consequences count (intended or actual). If only actual consequences count, then do all consequences count? Consequences can be distinguished by direct/indirect, individuals/objects affected, influence of complicating factors, etc.

DEONTOLOGICAL – This type of theory claims that there are features within the actions themselves which determine whether or not they are right. These features define the extent to which the actions conform with recognized moral duties. For example, driving while drunk violates the duty to “above all do no harm.” The duties derive from various sources, such as religion, biology, psychology, metaphysics, culture, language, etc. Depending on the deontological theory, these duties may be absolute (no exceptions), prima facie (can only be overridden by a more important duty), or conditional (only hold under specified circumstances).

RELATIVISM/SUBJECTIVISM – This type of theory denies that there is any uniquely right moral theory, standard, or value. Everything is subjective. For example, Jean Paul Sartre claimed that each individual creates his or her own morality based solely on one’s own decisions about what is valuable. There are no moral standards to turn to that have any more authority than those that you create. Things (including other people) only have value because you gave them value.

VIRTUE BASED THEORIES – Teleological theories consider the goals of actions. Deontological theories focus on acting in accordance with moral duties and obligations. Virtue based theories focus on the character of the person. According to virtue based theories, ethics is about what sort of person one should strive to become. The qualities that one should develop in oneself are called virtues (ex. honesty, fairness, kindness, faithfulness, generosity, prudence, integrity, bravery, etc.)


  • In the discussion of the resolution, include the impact that ethical relativism and globalization may have upon the suggested dilemma resolution.
  • Select the best resolution and explain in detail why.


Required Formatting of Final Project:

  • This paper should be double-spaced, 12-point font, and six to eight pages in length excluding the title page and reference page;
  • Title page;
  • Introductory paragraph and a summary paragraph;
  • Use headings to demarcate your discussion;
  • Write in the third person;
  • Use APA formatting for in-text citations and a reference page.  You are expected to paraphrase and not use quotes. Deductions will be taken when quotes are used and found to be unnecessary;
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